It’s been a long, strange trip across the pond. The opening two hours saw turbulence that made me think on more than one occasion, “Huh… I wonder if this is how it ends – plummeting from 40,000 feet to the ground below.” Understandably flight attendants were instructed to keep their sears but that meant any and all services were suspended and I was majorly parched and desperate for a water. Part of this is that the cabin was so dry and oddly warm, that it was as if I were in the Nevada desert. Which technically I was as we parabolically flew across the globe.
I’m in a window seat, something I don’t normally request so I’m not entirely sure how this happened. One would hope you could lean against it and grab some shuteye. But it makes trying to get a glass of water from the air crew a bit dodgy. Two elderly solo travelers are next to me. I say elderly fully cognizant that I am an old man, achy and prone to needing to get up and stretch. They move with difficulty, as do I. They both have hacking coughs, which I hope not to have. The man on the aisle is Turkish and in a rare instance when we all have gotten up to stretch, he asks me if I need a tour guide. I politely decline telling him I’m not staying in Turkey, just passing through. He doesn’t seem to understand and asks if I need a tour guide. I mentally flash on what a tour would be like with him as my guide. It concludes with me waking up in a bathtub filled with ice and a note saying, “at least you still have one kidney left.” I’m in a dark place. Perhaps it’s due in some small measure to these complimentary eye shades.
I had long thought of Turkish Airlines as being a higher end service airline. I was clearly mistaken. The crew were surly. I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much – this photo is of the last penne pasta dish onboard and I was the one who got it. Too bad it kinda sucked.
The breakfast (fast forwading here a bit) was much, much worse:
As the tiny plane progresses across the digital globe on my setback screen, we eventually cross into daylight. As I’m stating out the window into the technicolor cloudscape, a gruff flight attendant comes by and tells me that since the sun is coming up I must close my window shade. This window deal just keep getting worse and worse.
Jammed and wedged into this chair, a square peg in a round hole forced into ever more confusing pretzelized art design of inhuman poses, I try and sleep, figuring that’s my best option for getting through until tomorrow.
I ran this morning… or was it yesterday morning? I ran on whatever day I left. My legs feel overextended and rubbery. This chair isn’t helping. I feel, as has often been said, terrible.
Throughout the flight, the temperature does not improve. It’s one of those newer planes that design-wise did away with personal air vents. I strip off my jacket, then my long sleeve shirt to just my t-shirt. I’d strip it off too if I could. It’s an unpleasant cabin experience.
I watched a movie and then couldn’t bring myself to watch another. In most movies there’s readily available beverages for the characters and I was too envious to watch that. Parched, sweaty, and irritable, trapped in a window seat I never wanted, my bones ache as well. It’s only partly due to this uncomfortable seat. I’ve noticed a creeping chronic ache of late. It’s the years and mileage. They’ve caught up to me. it seems. This all makes me feel ever more like an old man.
This by the way is what happens when you don’t have an aisle seat on a long-haul flight:
The Istanbul Airport international connecting area is decked out with standard warehouse airport décor. Exposed pipes, digital schedule signs with gate assignments, and uncomfortable chairs. Duty Free shops line the corridors, offering discounts that would be deemed too high as the inflated regular prices on Amazon to warrant a larger percentage off their selling price.
There’s a Cruise Ship Comedian – I’m blanking on his name – who has a bit about how Chinese Food in China should just be called “food.” I thought of him as I passed the free sample displays for Turkish Delights on offer at various kiosks. “Here in Istanbul,” I heard him say, “Shouldn’t they just be called ‘delights?’”
I didn’t have any local Turkish currency so couldn’t buy a soda from the vending machines. They wanted 6 Turkish Lira (abbreviated as TRY). The various grab-n-go food court offerings had them priced at 10.5 Turkish Lira. My googlesearch says the vending machine was close to USD$2 and the kiosks were TRYing to charge closer to $3. I wasn’t about to pay such an inflated markup penalty for not having local currency. A man’s got to stand on his principles sometimes. And that principle is defined by a bird in the hand sayng, “cheap-cheap-cheap.”
There was some serious secondary security screenings for ALL passengers going to Tel Aviv. I forgot how much of a hotspot tensions can be, how much violence seems to hang in the air surrounding that area of the world. As is often the case with Middle Eastern services, the split between females patting down females and males patting down men felt a little unnecessary. I guess since it was more of a pat for trace explosives I didn’t feel it aggressively invasive. Just time consuming.
Boarding was almost complete as the last few passengers trickled in, all lugging several large pieces of luggage (they really took the lug to heart I guess). The gruff couple who would sit next to me reminded me all too much of a past I’d like to forget. The husband in particular was a bully who continuously shoved his bag into the overhead and not finding it fit. A gentleman seated underneath one such compartment asked him to be careful because there was a laptop in his bag. “So what?” the not-so-jolly giant said, as he shoved the bag once more into the compartment, forcing other bags to tumble out. Charming.
We departed half an hour late which makes my attempt to catch a train and public transport to my AirBNB even more dodgy. Despite that damn bird still being in my hand, I may wind up paying for a cab to get there, not wanting to puzzle out public transport schedules and transfers at 11 o’clock at night.
The meal was Turkish Airlines Haute Cuisine… by which I mean, almost inedible:
Delays in landing. Delays at immigration. Delays at getting my bag. And delays at hailing a cab using the Uber-ish GETT app… one which quoted me a fare and then charged me three different amounts, plus the cabbie had to call me incurring an international phone call charge of Sprint knows how much. The former requires an email to the customer service folks; the latter requires waiting for the voluminous cell phone bill.
I guess it wouldn’t be a trip if you didn’t feel like you got screwed by your cab driver.
Seriously? A bag fee when I’m coming from the airport? And because he mentioned I could book a return ride to the airport he can charge me for that tidbit? It’s okay, I tell myself. I figured that was his tip.
I’ve gotten into my airBNB but I think I accidentally let a cat out of the door. That’s not a poorly translated revelation about things. I had a code to get into the atrium/lobby and as I punched in the code and pushed the door open with my checked bag, this black bolt of lightning flashed past me into the night. I’m pretty sure it was a cat. I tried calling it with the classic “here, kitty kitty!” And I made that clicking sound and that “puss-puss-puss” sound when you try and call a cat. I spent a good two minutes on this before I realized even the best behaved cat wasn’t about to come to my call. Cats, like people, don’t like me. And the feeling is mutual. If the cat wanted to roam free so badly, well, who am I to stop him? I’ve seen both the original and the unfortunate remake of THAT DARN CAT! so, ya know, call it a cinematic tribute BEFORE the Star Wars tour.
I feel a little terrible about it. But honestly, there’s so much wrong at the moment all I want to do is curl up on those bed and await the dawn. I should probably close the blinds. Wouldn’t want an irate Turkish Airlines flight attendant pounding on my door telling me to do it.
I’m going to leave them open. Live dangerously… also with my luck I’d break the damn things.